FILM OF THE MONTH
“It’s super cold and the town is empty, even though it’s June 10th. Nothing looks real…I feel like I’m sending letters from another dimension.”
THE SINKING OF SOZOPOL
By E. J. Wickes
Image (above) from The Sinking of Sozopol
In The Sinking of Sozopol, the measure of one man’s life and the people most influential to it is told through the consumption of ten bottles of vodka. This film takes the therapeutic human condition of drinking your sorrows away to a new level. Deyan Donkov, as Chavo, the film’s protagonist, does a brilliant job of maintaining the ambivalence and selfishness of his character. Produced and directed by Kostadin Bonev and written by Ina Valchanova, this art house narrative challenges the viewers by leading them into the surreal settings that separate Chavo’s dream state from his reality.
The seamless editing by Toma Waszarow was crucial in pulling off this non-linear dreamscape. The continuity from scene to scene was smooth and not thoroughly confusing as some surrealist works often are. In the opening scene, we’re immediately immersed in the subtlety of Kostadin Bonev’s non-linear structure. It foreshadows a scenario in Chavo’s life that’s all too common. An uncomfortable confrontation between friend and family. I was compelled to see a man who has lost or abandoned everything and everyone he’s ever loved or hated.
Chavo, played by Deyan Donkov
Chavo decides to take a trip, but not to Vienna to visit his family as per his doctor’s request. Instead as a vision quest, he returns to his home town of Sozòpol, an ancient seaside town nestled along the Black Sea Coast and his walk down a very melancholy memory lane begins. We’re given flashbacks from a time when he and his family inhabited the cottage he’s returned to. He readies himself by stocking the fridge with ten bottles vodka and hanging a chart on the side so he can mark off each bottle day by day. And when he finishes the tenth bottle? No one can really predict. The Sinking of Sozopol refuses to lead you with obvious breadcrumbs.
From Chavo’s arrival he is stalked by the ghostly presence of Gina, the observer and guide it would appear, to the rest of the lost souls about to converge on Sozopol. They are about to intervene in his vodka cleanse and join him on the final leg of his journey. In his dreams we see Chavo swimming along the sea’s floor, where he discovers a room submerged with a bed and his brother laying beside it. Grave markers and relics from the past line the sea bottom, below the rustic landscape of a little village leaning on the edge of time.
His memories are filled with Neva (left), played by Snezhina Petrova, his lost love from an unresolved falling out many years ago.
The days progress as the bottles are emptied. The rain begins and the sea begins to swell. It is June, the middle of Summer and cloudy. The village seems uninhabited except for a few straggling vacationers stranded in Limbo. Outstanding locations and set design embellish the surrealism as each significant character develops and accompanies Chavo to the conclusion of his journey.
The cinematography is remarkable to anyone with a painter’s eye. The sets were treated very monochromatically, with subtle bursts of warm color to keep the viewer’s mind’s eye on the border between life and death. The Sinking of Sozopol comes with a moody and ambient sound track, composed by Nikolay Ivanov. It works well with the sleepy atmosphere of Sozopol; a village besieged by gray skies, rain and earthy color schemes.
Music composed and performed by Nikolai Ivanov. (Acoustic guitars, tamboura, keyboards ,
samples and percussion.)
Every character in this story has their own personal baggage to claim. It is not always easy to differentiate Chavo’s imaginings from his reality, but this only serves to enforce observations about our own mortality and life experiences. It is because of memories and dreams that we have the freedom to roam within the boundaries of our own self discovery or self deprecation.
This movie left me with a few unanswered questions. Even though it was never meant to provide all the answers, this is a very intelligent film. It’s more about following the characters and experiencing the human condition in all its short lived splendor and relative sadness. Was Sozopol some threshold between the living and the dead where old memories were relived but never completely resolved? Regardless of how open ended the conclusion is left, it never deprives the viewer the satisfaction of a climatic resolution shared by old friends and lovers who were driven apart by years of uncertainty.
The Sinking of Sozopol is a 2014 Bulgarian drama directed by Kostadin Bonev. It features appearances by Deyan Donkov, Snezhina Petrova, Svetla Yancheva and Stefan Valdobrev. The Production Designer was Georgi Todorov.
E. J. Wickes is a visual artist, the Creator, Designer and Publisher of The Metamodern Magazine and the Managing Editor of Cult Critic Magazine. His aesthetics lie somewhere in the vortex between painting and filmmaking. Eric has worked as an Art Director, Lead Scenic and Leadman on many film productions from Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, to his most recent involvement with the Verizon Go90 Channel, production of the comedy series “Embeds”.